Basque Fishermen - Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

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Basque Fishermen – 82/2415

Arrue, Alberto

Bilbao, 1878/02/03 - Bilbao, 1944/04/08

Oil on canvas

135.5 x 190.5 cm

Alberto Arrue (bottom right hand corner)

c. 1918

First half of the 20th century


Acquired in 1931

Basque Fishermen is also done in a dark palette, largely dominated, in terms of colour, by the opposition between the red of the man¿s kaiku (a traditional Basque woollen jacket) and the pinks, greens and blues that profile the woman. The harshness of the composition is partly a result of the sculpture-like modelling of the subjects. This toughness is also determined by the seafarer¿s rigidity and the placing of the oar, which brusquely divides the painting in two. Apart from the traditional nature of the theme, the painting also has a clear Symbolist facet, resolved in the opposition of the sexes. Rendered in a line of great beauty, the complex pose and colouring of the woman¿s body transforms a humble fisherwoman into a femme fatale, mistress of secret resources and profound ruminations. Set against her is the unthinking, monolith-like quality of the man (however much he is intended to represent strength of character in the face of marine tragedy). He is very much of a piece with the rigid layout of the village at his back; the woman, however, belongs to the sea.

In much of Alberto Arrúe¿s work, the kind of literaturization of theme appreciable in Basque Fishermen was the expression of a clear social critique. Besides portraying the proletariat of the river at Bilbao, he also concentrated on the tragedies at sea, in pictures suffused with a deep, slightly sordid melancholy, accompanied by a preponderant, if varied, traditional Basque iconography. [Javier Viar]

Selected bibliography

  • Bengoechea, Javier de. Catálogo de arte moderno y contemporáneo del Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao. Bilbao, Banco de Vizcaya, 1980. p. 19. (Con el título Pescadores vascos).
  • Mur Pastor, Pilar. La Asociación de Artistas Vascos. Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao ; Caja de Ahoros Vizcaína, 1985. p. 73.
  • La Pesca en la Pintura [Cat. exp.]. Vigo, Centro Cultural Caja de Ahorros, 1985. s. p., n° cat. 3.
  • Larrínaga, José Antonio. Los cuatro Arrue : artistas vascos. Bilbao, [s. n.], 1990. pp. 43, 52, 54-55, 58, 67. 190.
  • Galilea Antón, Ana María. "A propósito de las obras del Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao depositadas en otras Instituciones", Urtekaria 1992 : asterlanak, albistak = anuario 1992 : estudios, crónicas. 1993. pp. 19-72, il.
  • Guía Artistas Vascos. Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 2008. pp. 74-75.
  • Guide Basque Artists. Bilbao, Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, 2012. pp. 73-74, n° cat. 34b.
  • Gida Euskal Artistak. Bilbao, Bilboko Arte Eder Museoa, 2008. pp. 74-75.